I’ve been a wargamer on and off for about 12 years. I’d always been aware of pen and paper RPG’s but for whatever reason they just never had that “awe” factor for me. Three years ago I purchased some BattleTech books and when they arrived, a tattered copy of The Naturalist’s Guide was mixed in. I’d never heard of Talislanta so I opened it up to a random page and started reading. I was simply awestruck.
There was something about the writing. The way the words were strung together. I’ve always been rather fascinated with the concept of mapping patterns within chaos and while the subject is not directly related, Stephan’s writing, specifically how the information is delivered, strikes me as very systematic, yet uncommonly structured in more places than I can count. On some subconscious level his imagination speaks to me in a way that nothing ever has before. Beyond being drawn to his composition I find that my mind is unusually stimulated, and quite pleasantly so. I continued to read and flip and flip and read. Talislanta had touched my heart and mind in a way that nothing else ever has. Later that year I fell in love with Indie RPG’s for their abstract mechanics and abrasive conceptualism.
I would go on to fall in love with RPG theory. So much in fact that instead of playing them, I would learn the business and come extremely close to starting up a company to publish my own indie games. I wised up right before my tippie toes crept over to the starting line, but the matter of the fact is that Talislanta was the beginning of something big for me. Talislanta changed the way I thought about literature and the way I thought about RPG gaming. It is simply staggering to me how so many authentically tangible skills, concepts, ideals, and “outside the box” cognition – learned through playing pen and paper – directly translate into “real world” social skills, understanding, and application. As a result I’ve actually become quite the RPG Activist for introducing games to young children and teens, supporting sites like The Escapist and related programs, especially locally, whenever possible.
When I heard Talislanta was going free I was ecstatic. When the website accidentally launched and I saw what was planned I was horrified. Talislanta obviously represents a great deal to me and I think very highly of SMS as an individual. The simple fact is that most folks on the internet these days are used to dealing with very aesthetically appealing websites. Everything is pretty and easy to access and if anything is confusing, help is just a mouse-click away. I have no doubt that a great deal of people would have zoomed to the website, downloaded what they could, looked at a couple of books, and archived it on their hard drive. I fear that would be about the end of it for most. Without a real sense of community it is very difficult to keep an RPG alive and going. This happens all the time in the self-publishing indie sector as amazing games simply die because the authors don’t have enough time to do every last thing themselves (website, authoring, mechanics, editing, accounting, forums/support, etc…).
I talked with the few individuals who were involved with the Talislanta project and it was pretty clear they all lived very busy lives and their current plans for Talislanta.com were a minimalist beginning (new site features would grow over an extended period of time). They were apart of something great but simply did not have the time to go the full 10 yards. There was a definite lack of coordination and if this website were to launch without outside help, I felt rather strongly that Talislanta.com would “drop the ball”; visitors may have a bad taste in their mouth and write Tal off completely. I’m sad to say that many people can be unfairly close minded and overly judgmental, especially in this hobby with new gaming options available daily. I was never really recruited for this position, nor am I certain that it could be given a title. I just sort of hopped on board.
I’ve sacrificed a great deal to accomplish what I have with this website. Handling the entire PDF project alone has been insane in regards to time. You may not think much goes into cleaning up a PDF but manually removing watermarks from every single page, removing PDF security schemes left over by the previous publisher, creating extensive bookmarks, light image editing, compressing is drawn out and tedious, properly setting page numbers so telling your reader to take you to page 13 actually takes you to page 13 of the book itself, creating the PDF page was ridiculous, and a few lesser tasks not mentioned; all of this has absolutely monopolized my life.
I’ve lost a lot of time with my family and more personal time than I will ever care to admit. For the last four weeks I have lived and breathed Talislanta, pouring my time into PDFs, news stories, and managing the scanning project. While you may not see much progress from the scanning project, the time sunk into it is simply atrocious! However, I don’t have any regrets in retrospect. I knew what I was getting into and I was dedicated to seeing this through. Talislanta deserves as much, as do new fans. I believe they should be given a proper introduction to Tal via the means and technology that they are accustomed to here in the modern day. After much toil I honestly believe that I have come to the end of this road.
I honestly feel that I have accomplished the goals that I set for myself and this project. A thorough article has been written to help introduce newcomers to the massive onslaught of information that is the Talislanta library. Over four fifths of the Talislanta library is available for download which includes the complete 4th and 5th editions of the game in PDF format; OCR’ed and extensively bookmarked. The Scanning Project is in full gear, properly documented, and has been further opened to the community for participation. There is even a small article about finding a game of Tal to join or resources to utilize when recruiting for one.
During the websites launch there were regular news stories to keep the community updated and involved while the project was most active. Talislanta.com was officially launched, thoroughly advertised on the major RPG news networks, and a rather well rounded interview with SMS himself was made available. Given plenty of topics pertain to this project, I don’t think I’ve seen the Tal Yahoo Group this active during the entire 2.5 years I’ve been apart of it. Given the slow nature of the scanning project I will continue to coordinate and be a part of that project off-site. So if your a scanner and reading this, nothing has changed =). However, my time here as an active webmaster is done.
I sincerely hope and desire that all of my hard work and dedication may result in others having a similar awakening or significant inspiration as I once did. SMS’s work has changed my life for the better. It has been a true privilege to get a chance to know him a little bit beyond the man simply pictured in the books. I honestly feel like I did a good job here. Something I was absolutely terrified I was going to fail at when I first started on this path, given the sheer number of tasks, condensed time frame, and arduous amount of solitary work.
To anybody who would like to show gratitude to SMS, myself, or the community, you need only do one very simple thing; please spread the word about this project. Add it to your forum signature, tell a friend, mention it from time to time in conversations with other gaming friends, put a post it up at your local RPGA event or FLGS, donate $25 for 25K banner impressions on RPG.net, simply help keep Talislanta alive. I wish you all the best of times in Talislanta and at the gaming table =)